Thursday, May 26, 2011

Most NY illegal immigrants rounded up on minor offences, says human rights campaigner (Antigua Observer)

Most NY illegal immigrants rounded up on minor offences, says human rights campaigner
By CMC - Thursday, May 26th, 2011.

NEW YORK – Most of the illegal Caribbean immigrants rounded up for deportation by the US federal government under a new campaign were deemed “non-criminals”, according to data gathered by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU).

Since the end of March, more than 70 percent of undocumented immigrants across the state who were detained after cops shared their fingerprints had neither been charged with or convicted of serious crimes and were considered “noncriminals” by the federal government, the human rights campaigner said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported eleven immigrants from New York state since it began an enforcement programme two months ago, but only one had been charged with or convicted of a felony, the NYCLU said.

“Eleven New Yorkers is eleven too many who have fallen victim to this misguided and unjust federal immigration enforcement programme,” said Udi Ofer, NYCLU advocacy director.

An NYCLU analysis of data from several counties said 125 of 136 deportees were not charged with or convicted of a felony.

The NYCLU said that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo should suspend the state’s involvement in the federal Secure Communities information-sharing programme, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s immigraton enforcement efforts.

New York City is expected to join 27 other counties in the State that share their immigration databases with federal immigration authorities.

Washington has argued that the programme boosts public safety by identifying criminals and deporting them.

In a letter to Cuomo, a group of 38 New York State legislators, urged him to withdraw the state from the national programme.

The legislators’ call came two months after 19 New York City Council members sent a similar letter to Cuomo.

The letters are part of a growing national chorus of disapproval of the enforcement initiative, observers have said.

Last week, the Midwest state of Illinois became the first state to withdraw entirely from the programme. In their letter, the New York legislators applauded Illinois’s move.

“Given New York’s immigrant heritage and our leadership role in the nation, we firmly believe that our state, too, must immediately end this destructive programme,” the letter said.

Under the programme, the fingerprints of everyone booked in a local or county jail are automatically sent to the Department of Homeland Security and compared with prints in the agency’s databases.

If officials discover that a suspect is in the country illegally, or is a noncitizen immigrant with a criminal record, they may seek to deport the person.

A spokesman for Governor Cuomo said he and his staff are still reviewing the programme.

The Bush administration began Secure Communities in 2008, intending to have it fully in place around the country by 2013.

A year ago, then New York Governor David A. Paterson, the grandson of Jamaican and Grenadian immigrants, signed agreements to cooperate with the programme.

Immigration advocates say the new data-sharing system has contributed to a surge in deportations to the Caribbean and other places.

Opponents also express concern that the programme could deter illegal immigrants from coming forward as witnesses to help law enforcement officers fight crime.

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